Practicing Mindful Meditation
Meditation has been practiced around the world for thousands of years, originally to understand mystical forces of life. In our modern world, the following 6 types of meditation are still prevalent: mindfulness meditation, spiritual meditation, focused meditation, movement meditation, mantra meditation and transcendental meditation. While each of these meditation types have unique components, they all have one thing in common: to seek inner peace and become present with ourselves.
Meditation is considered a mind-body complementary medicine and although it is not a replacement for medical treatment, it encourages balanced sensations that promote well being. It’s the habitual practice of meditation that helps redirect thoughts, improve focus and boost concentration. In fact, there have been benefits of meditation observed in as little as four consecutive days of practicing meditation.
In this post we outline the top three benefits of meditation and how you can incorporate it into your lifestyle.
What can meditation do for me?
In our stress blog, we discussed the danger of chronic stress and how a hormone called cortisol can have a negative impact on our bodies. To briefly recap, bodily responses to short term stress are key for managing physical stress whereas long term or chronic stress can cause more harm than good. Thankfully, meditation helps reduce stress and stress-related conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia and sleep disorders.
Not surprisingly, when stress is reduced, so is anxiety. Habitual meditation and other meditative therapies may improve symptoms of anxiety such as feeling restless, feeling weak and inconsistent breathing as demonstrated in one study. This is partly due to the reduction of cytokines- a component of the immune system response.
Building self awareness through meditative therapies encourages valuable changes that reinforce positive mindsets. Along with this strengthened self awareness, a better understanding of how you relate with those around you is developed.
Meditation doesn’t need to be complicated, nor does it require an embellished setting with essential oils, dim lighting and a Himalayan salt (although those do make for a great ambiance!). It is a simple practice that can be exercised practically anywhere. Read on to discover a few ways of how you can easily incorporate meditation into your lifestyle.
1.Walk and Meditate
Have you ever gone on a walk in an effort to clear your mind and returned feeling just as stressed as when you left? The tendency to dwell on negative thoughts in states of frustration hinders our capability to alleviate stress. As humans, we are naturally drawn to ponder on things that are threatening, pleasant or novel. One study concluded that meditation may reverse patterns in the brain that influence mind-wandering, worrying and poor attention.
Combining exercise like walking or stretching with meditation is a great way to intentionally push aside distracting thoughts and focus on physical movements. This focus might include a scan of any pain points, assessment of breathing, pondering the way in which our arms swing. Mindful meditation while walking can help engage our mind and body.
Essentially, you can meditate almost anywhere. Meditating while focusing on a mantra, breathing, or calming sound is known as focused attention meditation which concentrates on a single component. Meditation that causes reflection on feelings and sense of self is known as open monitoring meditation and encourages a broadened awareness of your environment.
2.Repeat a Daily Affirmation
Daily affirmations, sometimes referred to as mantras, can be a quote or motivational piece that you read and repeat out loud. In some cases, it may be religious and in other cases it may not be. Either way, it allows us to concentrate on goals, move from negative to positive thoughts and can influence our subconscious mind to new beliefs. This is where focused attention meditation comes into play.
To help keep you on track with daily affirmations, write your favorite mantras and leave them for yourself in common areas like the kitchen, your laptop home screen or even along the dash of your car. As you know, repetition creates mastery of any skill.
3.Read and Reflect
Words are powerful. Especially when written by someone who understands the circumstances you are in. These individuals might not even know you but somehow have written something so relevant to your life and provided a sense of connection.
Reading and reflecting these words can deepen your reflections and create new perspectives. To take it one step further, there are plenty of groups available both in person and virtually to help support your journey with meditation. Sharing and learning from like minded others will not only broaden horizons but help keep you accountable to your emotional well being.
Meditation may or may not be for you but considering the multitude of research and associated benefits it’s worth a try. Not sure where to start? UCLA Health has a variety of free guided meditation exercises to help you determine which style resonates with you. Check us out on Instagram for helpful tips on how to make meditation a part of your daily life.